CNN is reporting that General McChrystal has submitted his resignation. The President wants to meet with him before deciding to accept it.
Yes, General McChrystal snarked and growled in front of a Rolling Stone reporter about foreign officials, the Obama administration, President Obama and Vice President Biden. About the only official to get a pass from McChrystal was Hillary Clinton, largely because she supports whatever the military wants in Afghanistan. And as Jason argues, all of this is a reason for the President to accept his resignation.
I've watched this story unfold all day, and while I believe the remarks McChrystal made about the administration and the President reflect poorly on him and are insubordinate, I'm surprised that the focus has been so sharply laid upon that angle. No matter what the good general has to say about his conduct in an apologetic tone, he knew exactly what he said and who he said it to. He also received the article in advance.
Robert Gibbs laid out the real reason for why the President should accept McChrystal's resignation in his daily briefing.
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me say, first and foremost, there are more than 90,000 of our bravest men and women in Afghanistan, and what we owe them is nothing short of our full support and our best efforts to get a new strategy in that country right. That’s the president’s focus. That should be everybody’s focus.
It was a strategy, as you all know, that was worked out in long consultation last fall and last winter. And the president went around to many of the people that will be in the Situation Room tomorrow, asking them if they agreed with this new strategy and asked for their commitment to implement it. That’s — again, that’s what we owe the men and women that are — that are fighting each and every day over there.
According to the Rolling Stone article, the rank and file has lost faith in McChrystal's strategy and believe it places them at a greater risk of injury and death.
But however strategic they may be, McChrystal’s new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. “Bottom line?” says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”
This is why McChrystal must resign. The President will survive petty snark about whether he was sufficiently deferential to the general at their first meeting. He will survive the hysterical flappings of the right about how he's unqualified to lead, and how the military doesn't respect him. This is not about President Obama. It's about the troops who are putting their lives on the line every single day in Afghanistan.
Everyone who has a clue about leadership understands what happens when the rank and file loses faith. There can be no question that the troops in Afghanistan do not believe in their ability to successfully carry out the mission McChrystal has defined, nor do they believe in the mission itself. That is a very large red flag that must not be ignored.
Just as McChrystal has expressed his lack of faith and trust in the President, so too have the troops expressed similar sentiments toward him. For that reason, it is time for General McChrystal to hand his letter of resignation to the President when he reports tomorrow. He should then apologize not to the President, but to the troops under his command whose concerns he so cavalierly dismissed.
So forgive me if I don't buy the "I'm so sorry, I used poor judgment" apology. I don't. He knew what he said and why he said it.
What Gibbs said is far more important. This is about those 90,000 men and women over there. And what that article said is far more important. Those 90,000 men and women doubt this general's strategy and believe they are being put in more danger than necessary. When the President accepts McChrystal's resignation, effective immediately, he should make this clear to the country.
It really isn't about the President. Or even about tension between civilian/military leadership. It is about McChrystal's failure to lead those troops in that region with full conviction and belief in their success. Don't be fooled by all the right wing spew about to gush forth. For this administration, the troops are what matter, not a general's petulance about not being properly admired by a sitting President.